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Press Release · September 19, 2012

Half of Likely Voters Favor Proposition 30—Support Slightly Lower for Proposition 38

Half Say First-degree Murder Penalty Should Be Life In Prison, Fewer Choose Death Penalty

SAN FRANCISCO, September 19, 2012—Half of California likely voters support Proposition 30, the measure Governor Jerry Brown and others put on the November ballot to raise taxes, primarily for education programs. Support is slightly lower for Proposition 38, the initiative by attorney Molly Munger to raise taxes for schools. These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with support from The James Irvine Foundation.

When read the Proposition 30 ballot title and label, 52 percent of likely voters say they would vote for it, 40 percent would vote no, and 8 percent are undecided. The initiative would increase taxes on earnings over $250,000 for seven years and the sales tax by ¼ cent for four years to fund schools and guarantee public safety realignment funding.

When likely voters are read the ballot title and label for Proposition 38, 45 percent say they would vote for it, 45 percent are opposed, and 11 percent are undecided. Proposition 38 would increase taxes on earnings for 12 years using a sliding scale, with revenues going to K–12 schools and early childhood programs and, for four years, to repaying state debt. Both ballot measures draw support from:

  • Democrats and independents. Proposition 30 has overwhelming support among Democratic voters (73%), and Proposition 38 has solid support among Democrats (61%). A slim majority of independents favor both initiatives (53% for each). Strong majorities of Republicans oppose them (65% Proposition 30, 68% Proposition 38).
  • Women. A majority of women support Proposition 30 (59% yes, 30% no) and favor Proposition 38 by 13 points (50% yes, 37% no). Men are more divided on Proposition 30 (45% yes, 50% no) and opposed to Proposition 38 (40% yes, 52% no).
  • Lower-income voters. Those in households earning less than $40,000 show a larger margin of support for Proposition 30 (58% yes, 36% no) than do those in higher-income groups. Support for Proposition 38 drops among those making $80,000 or more (38%).
  • Latinos. They are more likely than whites to support Proposition 30 (66% to 48%) and Proposition 38 (58% to 40%).
  • Voters under age 35. They show much more support (72%) for Proposition 30 than voters age 35 to 54 (49%) or 55 and older (42%). They are also much more likely to support Proposition 38 (67%) than older voters (42% age 35-54, 32% age 55 and older).

“Turnout will be an important ingredient in determining the November outcome of the two tax measures since these initiatives have much stronger support among young, Latino, and women voters, and narrow majorities of independent voters are favoring both measures today,” says Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

What is the overlap in support between the two measures? Among those who would vote yes on Proposition 30, 71 percent would vote yes on Proposition 38. Among those who would vote no on Proposition 30, 80 percent would vote no on Proposition 38. In all, 37 percent would vote yes on both measures and 32 percent would vote no on both.

Asked how important the outcome of Proposition 30 is to them, 60 percent of likely voters say it is very important. Supporters are as inclined to say the outcome is very important (61%) as those who oppose it (63%). Half of likely voters (50%) say the outcome of Proposition 38 is very important to them, with those who would vote yes (55%) slightly more inclined to hold this view that those who would vote no (48%).

Brown’s Job Approval at 42 Percent Among Likely Voters

The recently enacted state budget is linked to the outcome of Proposition 30. If the measure fails, automatic cuts will be made to K–12 education to balance the budget. Opposition to the trigger cuts is high: 75 percent of likely voters are opposed to them, including 92 percent who say they will vote yes on Proposition 30 and 53 percent of those who would vote no. Asked how they prefer to deal with the budget gap, just 37 percent think it should be resolved mostly with spending cuts, while 41 percent prefer a mix of spending cuts and tax increases and 13 percent prefer mostly tax increases.

The governor himself has a job approval rating of 42 percent among likely voters, similar to his rating since January. Disapproval of Brown, however, is at a record-high 47 percent. The approval rating of the state legislature is much lower than the governor’s, at 22 percent. Asked about the job performance of their own state legislators in the assembly and state senate, 35 percent of likely voters approve.

Presented with four tax proposals, few likely voters favor raising state personal income taxes (28%), unless it is on the wealthy (59%). Both Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 would fund education with increases in income taxes. Few likely voters (33%) favor raising the state sales tax, as Proposition 30 would do temporarily. There is majority support among likely voters for raising the state taxes paid by California corporations (54%).

Proposition 31 Lagging—Many Undecided

The PPIC Survey also asked about two governance reform initiatives. Proposition 31 would establish a two-year state budget, set rules for offsetting new expenditures and budget cuts enacted by the governor, and allow local governments to alter the application of laws governing programs funded by the state. When read the ballot title and label, 25 percent of likely voters say they would vote yes, 42 percent would vote no, and 32 percent are undecided. The proposition does not have majority support in any party, demographic, or regional group. Many likely voters across groups do not know how they will vote on Proposition 31. Twenty-nine percent of likely voters say the outcome is very important to them.

Voters Split on Proposition 32 But Slightly More Likely To Oppose It

Likely voters are divided on Proposition 32, with 42 percent saying they would vote yes, 49 percent would vote no, and 9 percent are undecided. The initiative would bar unions, corporations, and government contractors from using money from payroll deductions for political purposes. It also would prohibit union and corporate contributions to candidates and their committees and government contractor contributions to elected officials. Proposition 32 has the support of slim majorities of Republicans (53%) and independents (52%), while a solid majority of Democrats (61%) are opposed to it. Asked how important the outcome of the measure is to them, 43 percent of likely voters say it is very important. This is a view held by about half of those who plan to vote yes (51%) and 40 percent of those who plan to vote no.

The survey also asked generally about the role of unions and corporations in campaigns. A slim majority of likely voters (54%) favor restricting the ability of unions to contribute to candidates (41% oppose). A solid majority (60%) favor placing restrictions on the ability of corporations to do so (37% oppose).

More Prefer Life Term To Death Penalty—Strong Support for Changing Three Strikes Law

The survey did not include specific questions about Proposition 34, which would repeal the death penalty, or Proposition 36, which would revise the three strikes law, but did ask about some of the concepts behind them. Asked about the penalty for first-degree murder, 50 percent of likely voters say life imprisonment with absolutely no possibility of parole should be the penalty, while 42 percent say it should be death. Results were similar in September 2011 (50% life imprisonment, 45% death penalty). Among likely voters, most Democrats (66%) prefer life imprisonment and most Republicans (58%) prefer the death penalty, while independents are split (42% life imprisonment, 43% death penalty).

The three strikes law requires, among other things, a minimum sentence of 25 years to life for three-time offenders with multiple prior felonies. Survey respondents were asked if they favor or oppose changing the law to impose life sentences only if the third felony conviction is serious or violent. The results: 73 percent of likely voters are in favor, a view held across parties, demographic groups and regions.

Obama-Biden Lead by 14 Points

The Democratic presidential ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden leads the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan by 14 points (53% to 39%) among likely voters, with 8 percent saying they would either vote for someone else (2%) or are undecided (6%). In May and July, Obama led Romney by 11 points. Partisan likely voters are divided—88 percent of Democrats favor the Democratic ticket and 85 percent of Republicans favor the Republican one—while independents are more likely to favor Obama (51% Obama, 38% Romney, with 9% undecided and 2% planning to vote for someone else). Asked if they are satisfied with their choice of presidential candidates, 66 percent of likely voters say they are. Democrats (78%) are much more likely to be satisfied than Republicans (65%). Independents are divided (49% satisfied, 49% dissatisfied).

When asked to name one issue they would most like to hear the presidential candidates talk about between now and the election, 49 percent of likely voters say jobs and the economy. Far fewer mention health care, health costs, or Medicare (8%), or the federal budget, deficit, and taxes (7%). Most likely voters (60%) are dissatisfied with the amount of attention the candidates are spending on issues most important to them, and just 35 percent are satisfied.

“In the presidential election, the economy is the top issue for California voters, who still see bad times ahead for the state,” Baldassare says. “Voters across the political spectrum are dissatisfied with the attention that the candidates are paying to the issue that matters the most to them.”

President Obama has the approval of just over half of likely voters (53%), similar to July and up slightly from September 2011 (47%). Congress has a far lower 17 percent job approval rating among California likely voters. However, 48 percent approve of the way their own representative in the U.S. House is handling his or her job. Looking to the outcome of this year’s congressional elections, more likely voters prefer that Congress be controlled by Democrats (52%) than Republicans (38%). Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is up for reelection in November, has a 50 percent job approval rating among likely voters—similar to her rating before her last reelection, in September 2006 (53%). Forty-three percent disapprove. Senator Barbara Boxer has the approval of 45 percent of likely voters, while 47 percent disapprove of her job performance.


The PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,003 California adult residents interviewed on landlines and cell phones from September 9–16, 2012. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.5 percent for all adults, ±3.9 percent for the 1,339 registered voters, and ±4.4 percent for the 995 likely voters. For more information on methodology, see page 24.

Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of PPIC, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Public Policy. He is founder of the PPIC Statewide Survey, which he has directed since 1998.

PPIC is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. As a private operating foundation, PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office.